RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Feb. 12, 2008

120208.jpgTODAY: Kremlin shuts down St Petersburg University for “fire safety violations”, sparking protests and accusations; draft proposals put forward for internet controls. Relations with Ukraine, Jordan and India are current priorities. Medvedev loves Deep Purple. Russia’s Federation Council have put forward draft proposals for “legal control over the internet”, which would classify all web-sites with a daily audience of 1,000 or more as mass media, make registration mandatory, and then amend mass media laws. Authorities have temporarily closed down The European University at St Petersburg (EUSP), one of the city’s leading independent universities, for “fire-safety violations”. A spokesman for the Yabloko party commented, “This is a political decision. “That is perfectly obvious.” One UK newspaper reports that the Kremlin is being accused of an “unprecedented attack on academic freedom” in light of the closure, and points out that last year, “Vladimir Putin launched a vitriolic attack on the EUSP – which has close links with universities in the UK and US – accusing it of being an agent of foreign meddling.

A rating by Mercer Human Resource Consulting made in June 2007, in which Moscow was revealed to be the most expensive city in the world, has, oddly, been picked up on by one Russian paper today.“Under Putin, government officials have become more pious — at least outwardly — and have deepened their contacts with the church hierarchy.” Political analysts say that Russian voters “don’t pay particular attention to how honestly elections are conducted” due to increased living standards and stability. Ads at polling stations are to inform voters that presidential candidates Gennady Zyuganov, Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Andrei Bogdanov concealed their true incomes while applying to run.Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko is due in Russia in an effort to improve ties between the two countries and solve the current dispute over gas debts. Aside from the row over gas supplies, it is thought that Kiev’s ambition to join NATO is currently causing the greatest tension between the two. President Putin and King Abdullah II of Jordan have met to discuss “military contracts”. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov is in India on an official, predominantly to discuss India’s forthcoming “Year of Russia”.“The question vexing Russia’s uber-wealthy is what if Medvedev is less nice than he seems? What if – heaven forbid – he tries to take away their billions?” “I was 13 or 14 when I first listened to Deep Purple, and such music was forbidden then,” says Dmitry Medvedev.PHOTO: Dmitry Medvedev, center, and Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller, second from right, pose with members of heavy-metal band Deep Purple, after their concert to mark the state-controlled natural gas giant OAO Gazprom’s 15th anniversary in the State Kremlin Palace, Moscow, Monday, Feb. 11, 2008. (AP Photo/Dmitry Astakhov, Pool)